This is not a list of the ‘best’ goals I have ever seen, just my five ‘favourites’ – receiving this status for a variety of different reasons. Feel free to comment and add your own. I’ve attempted to share a video link for each goal too. And yes, it was difficult to keep this down to a single, obligatory Man United reference (I wonder can anybody guess which goal it is?) In reverse order:
5. Roberto Baggio (Italy v Spain, 9/7/94)
Why this goal? Roberto Baggio beats a shambolic offside trap, clumsily rounds the goalkeeper and should have seen his weak effort cleared off the line. Certainly no classic. But Baggios’s late winner against Spain it is the first goal I ever remember seeing on TV so for that reason it ranks in the top 5. I’m not sure why this is the first goal I remember; indeed it wasn’t even the first goal of this game. Additionally, snippets from previous games at USA ’94 stick in my mind (crying when the Nigerians lost to Baggio Italy, Jorge Campos’ amazing technicolour shirts & the stadium with the roof in Detroit) but this was the first time I remember watching the net ripple. Transfixed forever. The most beautiful part of the beautiful game.
4. Lionel Messi (Barcelona v Real Madrid, 2/5/09)
Barcelona rout of Real Madrid in the Bernabeu was encapsulated by this little gem and engineered by these two little diamonds. Xavi’s trademark spin and perfectly timed pass left Messi one-on-one with the best goalkeeper in the world. So casual that it bordered on arrogant, Messi cheekily waited, waited and waited some more until Iker Casillas fell over allowing Messi to stroke the ball home. A goal that summed up Barcelona’s attacking brilliance under Pep Guardiola; and Casillas’ perpetual bemusement at the continual failure to assemble anything resembling a defence in front of him.
3. Dennis Bergkamp (Netherlands v Argentina, 4/7/98)
Great goals can be improved still further by great pieces of commentary and this sublime control and finish from the masterful Dutchman is enhanced by his compatriot’s frenetic, patriotic screaming on the television. With three of the most sublime touches you will ever see, Bergkamp brought Frank De Boer’s long pass under his spell, turned Roberto Ayala inside out and assuredly brushed the ball past Carlos Roa sending Dutch commentator Jack van Gelder into fits of ecstasy.
2. Esteban Cambiasso (Argentina v Serbia, 16/6/2008)
An important consideration with favourite goals is that in the majority of cases you should be able to remember the context in which you watched it. This goal certainly fits that criterion. Having taken the Friday afternoon off school and watching the World Cup favourites in the local sports centre with my best mate, we were met with silence and bemused looks from the rest of the customers after standing to applaud Argentina’s second goal.
While Cambiasso may have scored the goal, it was really all about Juan Roman Riquelme. Possibly the slowest player on the pitch but undoubtedly the most technically gifted, Riquelme dominated the match from start to finish with the highlight his starring role in a 26 pass move that doubled their lead. Pass. Riquelme. Pass. Riquelme. Pass. Riquelme. Pass. Riquelme. Pass. Goal. Applause. Oh what could have been had he not been subbed in the Quarter Final against Germany?
1. Paul Scholes (Manchester United v Barcelona, 29/4/2008)
One of the greatest players in United’s history defined his career against Barcelona in the space of a week. In the first leg at the Camp Nou Scholes was the only player to remain true to the United principles of fluid attacking, passing and moving, gaining little support from his teammates but great respect from observers as he attempted to match Xavi, Deco and Iniesta pass for pinpoint pass.
The following week, with United remembering who they were and what they represent, Scholes illuminated Old Trafford and carried United through to the final with the most imperious of half-volleys. Struck from thirty yards, dripping with venom and a touch of swerve, Scholes’ howitzer nestled in the top corner. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a goalkeeper coming so far from saving a shot as Valdes did here. A true classic.